Posts in Tech

HighEdWeb Michigan 2016

May 27

Had a chance to present at HighWEdWeb Michigan again this year. I had a great time, if you work in Higher Education, I would definitely try to find a regional conference like that to check out.  To be honest, I was dragging my feet about presenting this year, but afterwords I was really glad I did it. I always have a great time, and my presentation turned into a pretty good conversation with a lot of smart developers – can’t complain about that. My slides are below, and it you are looking for a link to the tools I talked about, you can find them on my github page.


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Reduce Windows Vista: The winsxs folder

May 17

Just came across this quickly and thought I would spread the word.  If you are trying to free up disk space on Windows Vista or 7, check the Windows/winsxs folder.  Apparently windows stores old copies of system files here in case you ever need to roll back a service pack. If your system  has been stable for a while and you don’t anticipate this, you can safely remove some of the old files.  Windows even provides a tool to do it for you.

Just open a command prompt and enter C:\Windows\System32\compcln.exe then hit enter.  This is the Windows Component Clean Up Tool.  It will remove unused old copies of component files (.dll etc) and free up some space.  Mine went from 11.6GB to 9.33GB.  If you want more technical details on exactly what is going out check these out:

Hope it helps!

*NOTE: If you do this you WILL NOT be able to roll back a service pack  –  fair warning.

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Migrating your media files with the command line

Jan 4

Once you have installed Ubuntu and have it up and running, the next thing you will probably need to do is move your media files to onto it.  Since it is going to be used to serve up your video and audio, it is a great time to look at one of the better features of Linux: Job Control

Job control is the ability to send a command to the “background” so that you can continue to work on other things while it is running.  This can be accomplished primarily through two different ways: the bg command or the ampersand (&)

Say for example you wanted to copy files from an external hard drive to a share directory:

cp /media/external/music /home/shared

Once this command was executed you could stop the job by pressing CTRL-D and then using the bg command to restart it in the background and while leaving you an active command prompt.

Alternatively you could just append an ampersand on the end of the command and it would automatically run in the background:

cp /media/external/music /home/shared &

If you want to see the jobs that are running in the background, just use the jobs command to see any currently running jobs.  You can also use the fg command to bring a job back to the active terminal.

This makes it really easy to copy large directories from the command line without having to wait for the first to finish.  This really is just a fraction of the use you can get from the job management in Linux.  Check out some of these posts to get some more information if you’re interested:

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Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop or Server??

Dec 22

The first thing to decide when setting up your Ubuntu system is whether to use the Server or Desktop edition.  At first this seems like a no-brainer: Server is for a computer needing your traditional “server” needs (File and Print Sharing, Web Server, Authentication etc) and Desktop is for your personal everyday machine (Web browsing, Word Processing etc).  It isn’t really that simple though.  Ubuntu isn’t like windows where server and desktop OS’s are completely separate products.  You can configure one to perform exactly the same as the other.  So how do you decide?

Here are some tips:

  1. Decide on your user interface. – Server installs with the basic Linux command line.  While this is great if you know how to work it, and you can manually install a GUI later, it can be daunting for Linux newbies.
  2. Decide what you want to do with it. – Are you looking for something to act as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Device, or as an everyday web browser?  Do you need maximum performance or do you want to make it look as cool as possible?  Figuring this out and choosing which version has more of these features enabled by default will save you some time later.
  3. Your Level of Comfort – Almost undoubtedly as you get more proficient with Linux you will find yourself using the command line more and more.  Its one of the true strengths of the OS and once learned is often more powerful and faster than its GUI alternatives.  If you are new to Linux or just not that good with the command line yet though, installing the desktop version with its full GUI default is much easier.
  4. Hardware Support – It isn’t really that Server edition has worse support, as eventually it can be made to work.  But I have found that for many average PCs, desktop edition is easier to get initially configure to work correctly.  The utilities needed to install proprietary drivers are much easier than the command line.  (Desktop edition also natively recognized and supported my RAID-5 array while Server would not.)

All in all this, like everything else in the Linux world, is a personal choice.  Having said that it has been my experience that Desktop edition is much easier to set up for a beginner, and you can continue to add more “server-like” features as you grow you Linux knowledge.

Well that’s it for now – check back soon for tips on migrating files over to your new Ubuntu PC.

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Ubuntu Home Server

Dec 22

One of my big tech projects right now is getting a home server up and running.  My plan is to use this as a file/streaming media server, as well as a host for VMWare server.  I decided on Ubuntu 9.10 for the operating system.  I have used Linux before but am by no means an expert, so it should be a learning experience.  There are a lot of steps along the way and I will be updating here as I go, hopefully posting some how-to’s to make it easier for anybody else trying to do something similar.